Coming into this season, the Cleveland Cavaliers, a young team looking to build something for about five years from now, were not expected to do much, let alone reach the NBA playoffs.
Instead, they got off to a good start and consistently maintained a solid seed in the Eastern Conference.
Now, the Cavs sit in seventh place in the East and are apparently on their way to the play-in tournament.
After all the growth they have gone through this season, are their chances of actually making the playoffs in peril?
The Cavs Have Excelled On Defense
The key to Cleveland’s success this season has been its defense.
The Cavaliers are one of the NBA’s youngest teams, and it is uncommon to see a team play such stout defense when it relies on so many green players.
Allen has been one of the reasons Cleveland has been able to hold opponents down.
Acquired last season in the blockbuster trade that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets, he has been a huge presence inside, averaging 1.3 blocked shots and 10.8 rebounds in 32.3 minutes per game this year.
He has also expanded his offensive game, which has resulted in his scoring average increasing from 12.8 last season to 16.1 a game this season.
As a result, Allen was rewarded with his first selection to the All-Star Game.
Since Allen went out with a finger injury a few weeks ago, the Cavaliers’ defense suffered big time, which is evidence of his impact on that end.
Cavaliers have had the 6th worse defense in the league since Jarrett Allen got injured pic.twitter.com/kFCCi4LgmP
— Doc (@AlprenSENDGOONS) March 26, 2022
Rookie Evan Mobley, the third overall pick in last summer’s NBA Draft, has also been a revelation for head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.
The 7-footer is leading the team with 1.6 blocks in 33.9 minutes per game, to go along with 14.9 points and 8.3 rebounds a game this season.
Evan Mobley is already showing his defensive potential! #NBACourtOptix powered by Microsoft Azure highlights the 20-year-old’s effectiveness as one of Cleveland’s defensive anchors. Mobley & the @cavs seek their 5th straight win tonight vs. WAS at 7pm/et on NBA League Pass. pic.twitter.com/dcOdcti4Me
— NBA (@NBA) November 10, 2021
Third-year guard Darius Garland has elevated his game to the tune of 21.6 points and 8.6 assists per game this year.
Like Allen, he was selected to be on the All-Star team for the first time.
But despite the Cavs’ impressive growth, both individually and collectively, danger is lurking just ahead.
The One Team That Could Prevent Cleveland From Reaching The Postseason
Sitting just one spot beneath Cleveland are the Atlanta Hawks.
That would mean going up against Trae Young, and he is a player who has the ability to defeat a team like Cleveland almost single-handedly.
The Cavs would not have the best or second-best players in that game, and the reality is that big games, especially in the NBA, are won by superstars like Young.
A loss in that game could send the Cavaliers to a do-or-die matchup with the Brooklyn Nets.
Again, stars like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant usually show up in the biggest moments.
Ultimately, it doesn’t seem wise right now to plan on the Cavaliers reaching it to the 2022 NBA playoffs being a certainty.